News / Europe

Britain Prepares for Visit by Pope Benedict XVI

Multimedia

Audio
Henry Ridgwell

Pope Benedict XVI will arrive Thursday in Britain for a four-day visit.  It is only the second papal visit to the country since the Reformation and the first official state visit.

Claz Gomez taps away eagerly at the keyboard of her computer.  She is hugely excited about the pope's visit to Britain and has set up a papal visit blog that has so many hits the Catholic Church has brought her on board to help promote Pope Benedict's tour.

"My family would say I have been completely obsessed I think!  My family would say I am obsessed," said Gomez.  "Over the past week and a half I have been trying to get articles out once a day.  For example I have a blog post on the 'Pilgrim Pack'.  The young people of the diocese have received a lovely trendy red T-shirt, the young pilgrim's booklet, and this is England so we might just need the papal visit poncho!"

Grainne McGuire also is busy preparing for the pope's visit, but she has very different feelings.  In a small London apartment, she and a dozen other young people are making placards and imitation miters to take on the planned demonstrations against the visit, which thousands of people are expected to join.

"We are making these hats and we are going to be wearing them with slogans like 'God loves children, women and gays', 'Shame on You, You Bring Shame on Catholics', and 'Pope Benedict, Where is the Love?'  There are various slogans; we are going to be wearing them on our march with different banners with the reasons why we are protesting the visit," said McGuire.

These opposing views reflect the divisions that the visit is causing throughout society.  

The pope has thanked Britain in advance for the effort involved.  "I am very much looking forward to my visit to the United Kingdom, and I send heartfelt greetings to all the people of Great Britain.  I am aware that a vast amount of work has gone into the preparations for the visit."

The cost of the preparations, $19 million, excluding security, is just one of the objections raised by opponents.  Benedict's trip is a full state visit, partly funded by the British taxpayer, a privilege that has angered protesters, such as those attending this town-hall debate on the issue.

Under the umbrella group 'Protest the Pope,' they plan to hold a series of demonstrations during the visit.  Human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell is at the forefront of the protests.  "We do not fund visits by the Grand Mufti of Mecca or the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, so why should the pope's visit get this special privileged financial support?  In particular we are concerned about the pope's role in the cover-up of child abuse," said Tatchell.

The issue of child abuse within the Catholic Church has resurfaced with further allegations coming to light, prompting accusations of a cover-up.  The pope's visit to Britain has rekindled anger among victims and campaigners who believe the Church has not done enough to address the issue.

Despite the controversy, Catholics from across Britain, and even many overseas visitors, are gearing themselves up for the opportunity to see the pope.  

Benedict will celebrate Mass in Westminster Cathedral in central London before addressing 2,500 young people on the square outside.  The Bishop here says it is right that the pope is being afforded a full state visit.

"The pope may not be a king of a great nation, but he is the spiritual leader of 1 in 5 people on the planet, and he is going to do a considerable amount of good while he is here I am sure, and it is quite right for our nation to fund that," said the Bishop at Westminster Cathedral.

Pope Benedict has a tightly-packed schedule in Britain; he will celebrate two open-air Masses in Scotland and London, he will meet Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister David Cameron, and he will conduct the beatification of a Cardinal.

For Gomez and tens of thousands of other pilgrims, it will be a unique opportunity to see and hear from the figurehead of their faith.  McGuire and thousands of other protesters also will be following the pope every step of the way to make their objections to the visit loud and clear.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid